Personality, coping, and challenge and threat states in athletes

Mark S. Allen, Daniel Frings, Steve Hunter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


This study explored the relationship between personality, motivational (challenge and threat) states, and sport-related coping. 

Thirty-one currently competing athletes completed questionnaire measures of personality and coping, and were asked to imagine and talk about an upcoming competition (sport-specific speech) and the events that had transpired that morning (control speech). During the speeches a number of hemodynamic parameters were recorded (heart rate, ventricular contractility, cardiac output [CO], and total peripheral resistance [TPR]) to give an index of task engagement and challenge and threat. 

Findings demonstrated that cardiac reactivity was similar across the two scenarios suggesting that the goal-relevant sport-specific speech was not effective in inducing challenge-threat responses above those of general speech giving. However, general cardiovascular patterns across conditions were correlated with personality and coping functions. Specifically, lower CO and higher TPR were associated with more problem- and emotion-focused coping and higher levels of extraversion and conscientiousness. Further, athlete coping strategies could be predicted by personality test scores. 

In short, this study reinforces recent findings linking personality and coping in sport and suggests that a simple test of cardiac output and peripheral vascular resistance in a moderately stressful (non-related) situation may be sufficient to predict personality traits and sport-related coping.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-275
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Biopsychosocial model
  • Cardiac output
  • five-factor model
  • Heart rate variability
  • Total peripheral resistance


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